Which is healthier? Steel cut oats, rolled oats or quick cooking oats?

As is the inspiration for many of my blog posts, the question of which is healthier, steel cut, rolled or quick cooking oats, popped up on Facebook, and it’s not the first time I’ve seen someone ask it. So, I thought I would do a quick post to answer it.

What are steel cut oats?

Steel cut oats come from the oat kernel, and have simply been chopped into large pieces. In the above picture, the bottom right are whole oat groats, and once they’re chopped, they become steel cut oats.

What are rolled oats?

Like it sounds, the rolled oats have quite literally been rolled out. Whole oat groats are taken and steamed, and then rolled out into flakes.

What are quick cooking oats?

Quick cooking rolled oats are the same as regular rolled oats, except they have been steamed for longer, and tend to be in slightly smaller pieces.

What are the differences?

Because steel cut oats are in more of a ‘whole form’, they tend to be a bit lower on the glycemic index (meaning how much they cause a spike in blood sugar), because it takes your body longer to digest and get to the actual starch. Don’t worry though, rolled oats are still a good option too. Quick cooking oats are often much more convenient, and they are just a bit lower on the glycemic index, but again are significantly better than instant oatmeal or other cereals.

What are the cooking times?

Another difference is the cooking time. Since rolled oats have already been steamed, they require less cooking time to prep. Steel cut oats take about 20 minutes to cook on the stove top, where as rolled oats take about 10 minutes to cook on the stove top. Quick cooking rolled oats have been steamed more, so take even less time to cook (about 5 minutes).

Nutritionally, which are better?

At the end of the day, there is not a whole lot of difference. The steel cut are the least processed and therefore one of the best options, but given that they take significantly longer to cook, if this is a deterrent for you, you don’t need to worry about eating rolled oats instead.

Both have the same carbs and protein quantities, and are very similar calorically.

Are oats gluten free?

In their most natural form, oats are gluten free. The issue though, especially for Celiacs is that almost all of the time they come in contact with wheat during the processing. You always want to look for ‘wheat free’ on the label. Legally, they can’t say oats are ‘gluten free’.

And lastly, as a Celiac, you need to be careful that oats don’t actually bother you and cause Celiac like symptoms. For me personally, I can only eat oatmeal occasionally, or I start to feel lousy. If that’s the case, you can always try quinoa flakes, or millet as a replacement.

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